Pedagogy – nounThe art, science and practice of teaching.
In this article we are going to take a brief overview of 7 bodies of knowledge that are a great place to start exploring for your own personal, physical, movement education.
If pedagogy means the art of teaching, then my natural level of curiosity wants to dig deeper and ask, “What is being taught?” and “What is going to be really worth my time to learn?” because let’s face it, there’s a ton of crap that we are taught from an early age that has absolutely no use in real, daily living. I’d go as far as saying that 75% of my primary and secondary schooling syllabus was and still is absolutely useless in my day to day life. I’d also say that 95% of my physical education in school was spent playing games or sports. Better than being stuck in a chair, perhaps, but still limited and hasn’t carried me very far with a useful living skillset, in terms of movement and/or knowledge about my body.
Let’s narrow down this vast landscape of bullshit subjects within the realm of physical education and ask the question,
“What sports, arts and practices are worth learning about, exploring and moving through?”
Movemind has its own opinion with regards to the answer. The following bodies of knowledge are considered to be the best areas to begin exploring for one’s personal physical education. This is by no means an exhaustive or final list. Just a good place to start. If we could influence schools or primary education faculties to construct their syllabuses with these bodies of knowledge to give every child on earth a head-start with their physical education, we would.
Grappling based sports
Judo, Sambo, Brazilian JiuJitsu and Wrestling can all be considered sports and martial arts in their own right. The knowledge and principles contained within them all, are useful, applicable and tested constantly in the realm of competition. The testing bit is important because it weeds out the bullshit and superfluous. If a technqiue does not work under pressure when faced with 110% resistance, then is it actually useful?
These bodies of grappling knowledge are worth exploring because they tick so many boxes; respect, humility, strength of character, overcoming adversity, physical body conditioning, mental toughness, social communion, cardiovascular strengthening, low-tech and real life use for anyone, to name just a few of the benefits. Why did you not have the option to learn any of these arts to a decent standard in school?
Striking based sports
Dutch Kickboxing, Muay Thai and western Boxing sit at the top of the chain for striking sports. Again, their theories, principles and techniques are tested in the realm of competition, screening for useless knowledge and removing it from the art. Often traditional martial arts are not competitive, so they contain a whole load of extra rubbish that doesn’t serve anyone practically other than giving the body another way to move. There’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t sell someone the idea that the same movement is going to protect them or hurt someone else if it has not been properly tested.
The aforementioned arts also contain principles and biomechanics that are applicable to anyone. They are useful in daily life and have a similar list of benefits to the grappling sports. It is arguable that striking based sports are more dangerous than grappling ones, but not if taught correctly. As bipedal animals who walk upright most of the time, it makes sense to study the martial arts that focus on being stood up. Nature is both collaborative and combative, we are not exempt.
Again, why was I not taught any of this in school? Wearing protection and being punched by someone also wearing protection, under correct supervision, is not dangerous for children, providing the exposure is not at a high intensity or too frequent. It does, however, teach respect and humility. Teaching kids to deliver and receive a punch, the antidote to bullying, perhaps?
Science says we evolved almost infallibly from primates that could brachiate; making progress from hold to hold by swinging with their arms. Climbing, brachiating and hanging from edges exist in our matrix of movement potential. The modern sport of rock climbing is a fascinating body of knowledge that has taken this basic movement pattern of ascension and traversing, to a whole new realm.
Rock climbing specifically teaches you how to use sound biomechanics, including the correct use of the legs and feet, to scale a surface or an edge efficiently. It shows you how to overcome gravity with technique and poise, a useful artform that builds body awareness and a basic level of relative strength (muscular strength relative to bodyweight).
Rock climbing generally falls into two categories; using ropes, a harness and some extra gadgets to help get you up a rock, or, not really using anything but shoes and chalk. Sport/Trad/Aid climbing and bouldering, respectively.
Bouldering is fantastic place to begin simply because you only really need a pair of climbing shoes and some chalk for your hands. It’s the lowest tech, purest form of climbing and arguably the easiest place to start. You quickly realise how much finger strength and balance is a factor and how coordinating position-specific levels of body tension means the difference between being successful and falling off the rock.
Rock climbing as a body of knowledge measures progress by grading climbs on scales of difficulty. The community at large often contributes their opinions as to what the difficulty of a climb should be, a more open-sourced approach. Although the grading method isn’t scientifically accurate, the beauty of climbing is that it is relatively objective and binary – you can either climb a route, or you can’t. You can’t really bullshit your way up the rock face.
Dance with aerial components
Aerial artforms (silks, straps, hoop, tightrope, trapeze) and the multiple dance forms that exist are fascinating bodies of knowledge to study, both in the physical realm of practice, but also theory. Along with combat, dancing is one of the human’s most ancient movement practices that seems to have no limitations to its exploration. New dance ‘moves’ are invented all the time. Daily, even.
The beauty of dance pedagogies is the abundance of new movements a dancer will go through in a single session. The regular practice of trying new movements creates a level of body english fluency like no other. Again, levels of proprioception and body awareness increase rapidly because they are constantly challenged and utilised each practice.
Some dance styles condition the body, too. Breakdancing, for example, a body of knowledge that appears to be lightyears ahead of many other movement practices, incorporates feats of strength into its styles in a way that conditions the body to handle high levels of stress. I also remember seeing a broadcast on British television showcasing professional ballet dancers pitched against professional rugby players, sprinting head-to-head over 100m. The dancers drew with the rugby players, despite never training sprints as part of their dancing curriculum.
The aerial artforms, (silks, hoop, etc) also incorporate high levels of relative strength into their movements, conditioning the body and utilising grip strength.
Board sports, water sports, snow sports, gymnastics, bike sports, extreme sports are all bodies of knowledge and movement that require high levels of coordination and very often, courage. They are some of the most fun to learn, very rewarding to master and develop levels of proprioception that are envied by many. Arguably gymnastics is the most adept body of knowledge with regards on how to prepare, mobilise, stabilise, strengthen and condition the body, as well as providing guidance on the pathways for skill acquisition. It has also existed far longer than many of the newer trick-based sports.
Strength and Conditioning
One of the most valuable bodies of knowledge in existence. Why? Because it contains the information as researched by science on how to prepare the body for a plethora of different sports, how to develop the necessary attributes needed for those sports and how to bring a body back to performance after injury. The information and tools for looking after your body for a lifetime are contained in the realm of strength and conditioning. If every professional team-sports athlete in western civilisation has access to an S&C coach, you have to ask yourself “Why, and what is so important about strength and conditioning that all professional athletes adhere to some form of it?”
Civilized landscapes have a specific layout to them. Sidewalks here, stairways there. Civil engineers and city planners lay out the spaces that we move through in our daily lives. Sometimes we have a say in the design of newer spaces, most of the time we do not. The elements of Parkour are not new, per se. The attention it has received in the last 15 years has been unprecedented, though.
Parkour showcases a new way to move through these landscapes, ways that don’t necessarily obey the rules or seem intuitive to the untrained eye. Combining tricks, flips, rotations and gymnastic elements into a hybrid movement body of knowledge that gets the practioner from point A to point B, in the most efficient manner possible. The beauty of Parkour is that it offers a new way to look at and move through landscapes that are so often met with unconscious levels of complacent movement.
Freerunning is perhaps a more trick-focused spin-off to Parkour, less about movement efficiency and more about expression through wildstyle motion.
Mixing heightened levels of deliberate self-awareness with any of these bodies of knowledge mentioned above will yield powerful lessons within the realms of physical education. Best of all, you won’t be wasting your precious time, either.
What bodies of knowlege have you immersed yourself in recently, and what have you learned?